Gaber says WWE contacted him

Updated: August 26, 2004, 5:46 PM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- On a day when Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling ushered out familiar champions of old and welcomed some unconventional new ones, Egypt's Karam Gaber looked out of place.

Karam Gaber
Gaber bears a resemblance to actor/wrestler The Rock.
With all of the backflipping, vaulting and suspended-in-midair artistry during his two brief trips to the mat Thursday, shouldn't this guy be over in gymnastics, comparing tricks with Paul Hamm?

Gaber, never before a world champion but now an Olympic wrestling gold medalist like few before, incorporated a new statistic into one of the world's oldest sports: hang time.

Gaber -- he goes by that name, though he was called Karam Gaber Ibrahim at the Olympics -- threw around former world champion Mehmet Ozal of Turkey and silver medalist Ramaz Nozadze of Georgia like they were those stuffed practice dummies that neophyte wrestlers use in training.

Gaber, 24, needed only 1 minute, 9 seconds to toss Ozal three times during an 11-0 semifinal decision, avenging a loss to him in the 2002 world finals. He needed slightly longer, 3:22, to throw junior world champion Nozadze three times in a 12-2 decision for the gold at 211 pounds (96kg).

Such scores are occasionally seen in mismatches early in the pool rounds. They seldom occur with medals at stake in a sport where clinches, reverses, strength and technique more often determine champions.

Appropriately enough, Gaber celebrated with a cartwheel and a backflip. Not even his coach was immune from the treatment after running onto the mat; Gaber picked him up, tossed him over his shoulder and pinned him, too.

"It has been my style for 10 years now," said Gaber, who often trains in the United States and bears a resemblance to actor and wrestling entertainer The Rock. "Everybody knows it is my style. Everybody has seen my style."

Just not like this, executed on his sport's biggest stage. Once he was done -- and it didn't take long -- he threw flowers and kisses to the crowd, signed autographs and posed for pictures. It looked like an act straight out of the WWE, which he says has contacted him.

Another reason he's popular with women: He owns a company that manufactures ladies underwear. He's so image-conscious, his Web site was updated to include his Olympic title only minutes after he won.

And you thought all Greco-Roman wrestlers were as grounded and down-homey as Rulon Gardner?

"I love to play to the crowd," he said.

Gaber's gold is Egypt's first since two weightlifters won in London in 1948 and its first wrestling medal since 1960.

A few hours after two-time Olympic champions Armen Nazarian (60kg) and Filiberto Azcuy (74kg) of Cuba lost, South Korea's Jung Ji-hyun completed his rapid ascension to gold medalist by beating Cuba's Roberto Monzon 3-0 for the gold at 132 pounds (60kg).

Jung was only 23rd in the world junior championships a year ago, yet eliminated Nazarian -- often called the world's best wrestler -- by 3-1 in the semifinals. Nazarian came back to get the bronze.

"I never expected to win the gold medal," said Jung, who gained the Olympics only by finishing second in a qualifying tournament, the last chance to get in. "It's incredible. I can't describe how I feel. I want to repeat my success in four years time."

Uzbekistan's Alexander Dokturishivili won at 163 pounds (74kg), beating Finland's Marko Yli-Hannuksela 4-1 after eliminating 2000 Olympic champion Varteres Samourgachev of Russia in the semifinals.

Earlier, Yli-Hannuksela was a 3-1 winner over Azcuy, who won at Sydney in the now-discontinued 152 pounds (69kg) weight class.

Dokturishivili wrestled for his native Georgia until 2001, only to be beaten out for the national team. He relocated to Uzbekistan and began competing under its flag in 2003.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press